Lawrence’s Santa Fe Depot will receive $600,000 worth of renovations as part of the federal stimulus package, an Amtrak spokesman said Thursday.
Amtrak will spend $600,000 to build a new concrete passenger platform that will help the station comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Marc Magliari, a spokesman with Amtrak.
The news has some city commissioners saying that it may now be more feasible for the city to take over ownership of the depot — at Seventh and New Jersey streets — from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.
“I think the cost of ADA compliance was the one big stumbling block we all saw,” said Commissioner Boog Highberger. “If that is taken out of the equation, I don’t see any major issues.”
At last Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners agreed to send a letter to BNSF officials asking for negotiations to begin on a low- or no-cost transfer of ownership of the depot to the city.
But commissioners also expressed concern about the amount of money the city may be required to invest in the building, if it gained ownership of the 1950s structure. The city had estimated about $400,000 in ADA costs, and perhaps another $100,000 in other costs, such as roof repairs.
Carey Maynard-Moody — a Lawrence resident who has led a group of volunteers working to preserve the depot — said the passenger platform was by far the largest ADA issue facing the depot.
“The amount of funding has kind of caught us by surprise,” Maynard-Moody said. “But I think it shows that Amtrak cares about communities that care about themselves. We got noticed because it is obvious we care about the depot.”
Magliari said Amtrak will build the new passenger platform regardless of whether the building’s ownership is transferred to the city. But he said the decision to move forward on the project was an indication that Amtrak believed in the future of the station.
“This certainly should demonstrate our confidence in the efforts that are going on in Lawrence,” Magliari said.
Amtrak received $1.3 billion in stimulus money to make capital improvements across the country. The $600,000 Lawrence project is the largest Amtrak project in Kansas.
Magliari said Amtrak also is studying how another $8 billion in stimulus money set aside for rail travel can be used. He said there are possibilities some of that money could be used to establish a much-talked about Northern Flyer Amtrak route that would connect Kansas City to Oklahoma City. That route would use the existing tracks that run through Lawrence. The Kansas Department of Transportation is currently studying the feasibility of the project.
“Certainly KDOT is aware of that money and is watching the situation very closely,” Magliari said.